The Karakoram Project

I recently completed year two of my four-year project in the Karakoram Mountains and travelled up the Biafo Glacier. I was particularly keen to photograph BiantaBrakk (The Ogre) and SosbunBraak in winter conditions and set off in early June when the glacier and mountains are still snow-covered. One of the disadvantages of travelling so early in the season is the continual risk of crevasse danger,which are largely hidden by snow. During the winter months, the glacier is frozen hard but in early spring the snow has softened and great care must be taken to avoid breaking through into these caverns, which can be thousands of metres deep.

In order to mitigate the danger, the entire party of sixteen porters and myself were roped together to extend a level of protection, however this still couldn’t prevent some of the porters falling through to their waists before being pulled out by their colleagues – some carried 28 kilos on their backs which didn’t help their plight. At each step forward, the sirdar probed the snow with his stick making progress painfully slow and on two occasions we were forced to leave the glacier immediately and set up camp on the moraine, as conditions became so treacherous.

It was remarkable how quickly the porters could transform an area into one that was habitable – large boulders were moved around and a level platform for the tents created before building their own stone enclosure, over which a tarpaulin is stretched, in which they cook and sleep. Conditions during the period were largely excellent and I captured the mountains under heavy snow, however by the time we began our descent the temperature had risen and the snow had peeled back to reveal the fractured, arid peaks.